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Words of Dance

By Alberto Testa with Photography by Alessio Buccafusca

Book Review by Patrizia Vallone

March 2004

Dance as a performing art is mute. It’s all in the body; words are superfluous and often downright useless. The body becomes music, poetry, narration, drawing, sculpture, architecture. Everything is already expressed by the dance itself and the performers’ bodies.

Precisely because of its silence - the magic and mystery of bodies transformed by motion into narration - dance has always attracted poets and writers of all times and cultures. Many have written about it, fascinated by its transient nature and its cruelty to the performers. No art is so hard on those who create it and therefore love it more than anyone else, because it is so closely related to youth, health and physical beauty. Dance is a sublimely ephemeral art: it sublimates instantly and persists only in the memory of those who have experienced it.

Jorge Donn in Bolero

Any recollection and any picture captured by the camera is therefore more than welcome because it helps make dance a little less fleeting.

"Parole di danza" was first published in Italy in 2003. A French edition soon followed, and now this large-sized book has finally been translated into English, with the title "Words of Dance." It describes dance with a mix of words and frozen images - a real challenge, because these two elements are just what the art of movement lacks.

Alessio Buccafusca’s photos illustrate poems and literary quotations chosen by Alberto Testa. Memories blend with the pictures, neither prevailing over the other.

The photos selected for this book reflect all of Buccafusca’s long career in capturing dance on film. We see now-deceased artists such as Nureyev, Bortoluzzi and Donn; some who have retired from the stage, like Maximova, Vassiliev, Alonso and Khalfouni; and younger dancers who shine today in theatres all over the world. Buccafusca’s pictures are warm, serene and sincere; the dancers’ physical efforts are transformed into joy and love for dance.

Carla Fracci in Giselle

The texts Testa has selected are by authors such as Paul Valéry, Jean Cocteau, Théophile Gautier and Friederich Nietzsche, who famously said: “A day without dance is a day wasted.” The poems become the music to which the dancers in the pictures keep perfect step.

About the authors:

Alberto Testa is a dance historian, theoretician and critic, and a former dancer and choreographer. For many years he taught the history of dance at the Italian National Dance Academy. He created the “Léonide Massine” Prize for Dance (a.k.a. the Premio Positano), and has served as artistic director of the Spoleto Festival’s Dance Marathon. He has published books and essays on dance in general and ballet in particular, and contributes to many magazines.

Alessio Buccafusca works with a number of theatres in Italy (including the Teatro San Carlo in Naples and the Teatro alla Scala in Milan) and elsewhere (the Paris Opéra, the New York Metropolitan, the London Royal Opera House and the Sidney Opera House, among others). His photographs have been published in important international magazines. In 1998 he was awarded the “Léonide Massine” Positano Prize.

Words of Dance. By Alberto Testa and Alessio Buccafusca.144 pages. Gremese Editore, 2004. ISBN: 8873015557

Edited by Jeff

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